Sartre Was Wrong: A Writer Wednesday Post

March 5th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays

John Christmas

Christmas John, photo © Robin O’Brien, 2013, all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen, please click here:Sartre Was Wrong

The wedding was to begin in 30 minutes. I had just changed my clothes and was headed out the door to meet my husband so we could stroll together to his sister’s ceremony. OhI might want to take pictures of the happy couple. I turned back for my phone. Onscreen was a voicemail alert. “Call me when you get this.” The anguish in my sister’s voice froze my veins. I dialed her immediately.

That is when and how I found out that my older brother John had died unexpectedly at 65. Peacefully, in bed, on Valentine’s Day, and, according to my brother-in-law who found him, with a look of wonder on his face.

Genius, classical guitarist, peace activist, tournament bridge player, loner: just a few of the many truths about my brother. Ironically, I had just resumed work on a long piece of mine called Family Landscape, where eventually you can find more about him and other forces in my family.

What I want to share here, however, is that because he was single, the thousand dark decisions that must be made so rapidly fell to us siblings, the lion’s share to my sister who was closest to him emotionally and geographically.  The words “yeoman service” were spoken more than once, to more than one yeoman. It was deeply heartening to see siblings, nephews, in-laws, neighbors, landlord and luthier alike create a lovely, healing, fitting celebration of his life. Indeed, it was a reflection of an observation we found among my brother’s recently discovered writings: “Sartre was wrong. Heaven is other people.” He was less a loner than we thought.

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  • Mj Martin

    Lovely remembrance, Irene. My heart goes out to you and your family.

    • IreneOGarden

      Warm thanks, Ann–We’ll see what else we can come up with–

  • Mark Rettman

    Listened, rather than read this week… thank you for finding the time in your loss and sorrow to share your insights into life, death, and loss of one you have loved , so tenderly
    expressed. …thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way.

    • IreneOGarden

      Much appreciated, dear Mark–

  • Laura Shaine

    Your brother John left us all a gift. I shall never forget “heaven is other people.”

    • IreneOGarden

      Thanks–It was a wonderful discovery, Laura–

  • Angela

    The celebration of John’s life was a lovely and moving tribute. The O’Brien family is amazing and wonderful, and I learned a great deal about John’s impact and contribution to the family and to the world. I will always treasure knowing him and I will miss his genius, his humor, his music, and his generous bridge tutorials.

    • IreneOGarden

      Thanks for bringing your gifts–simple and complex–to the celebration, Angela–

  • Sasha

    Not sure my post stuck, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself. Thank you, Irene — your post gives me such hope. Hope that at the last, all is wonder, that we can find heaven in other people if we remember to look and that even we singletons are never truly alone.

    • IreneOGarden

      Fond appreciation, Sasha–I know he would be happy at your response–

  • giom

    …beautiful parting words…providing more comfort than my words could…

    • IreneOGarden

      gassho, dear giom–

  • ann

    What a wonderful reflection…I’d love to see more of your brother’s musings…

    • IreneOGarden

      Thanks, Ann–we’ll see what else turns up–

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